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COVID-19

Switzerland announces new Christmas restrictions as Covid-19 cases surge

Switzerland’s government has ordered new national restrictions for Switzerland ahead of Christmas to curb the increasing rate of Covid-19 infections.

Switzerland announces new Christmas restrictions as Covid-19 cases surge
Health workers are seen at the emergency care unit for patients infected with Covid-19 at the hospital of La-Chaux-de-Fonds. AFP

In a press conference on Friday afternoon, the Federal Council outlined new rules that will go into effect on December 12th, mostly reiterating the measures it had already announced previously:

  • Up to five people from two households can gather for private events, with exceptions for celebrations for up to 10 people from December 24th to 26th, and on December 31st for Christmas and New Year festivities.
  • Sports and cultural activities will be limited to five people, and museums and will have to remain closed Sundays and public holidays.
  • Public demonstrations are banned, except for religious celebrations.
  • Restaurants and bars will have to close at 7 pm, instead of 11 pm as is currently the case. An exception will be made for December 24th and 31st, when they can remain open until 1 am.

However, restaurants in the cantons that have been able to maintain their R rate below 1 will be allowed to stay open until 11 pm.

This is the case for the Geneva, Vaud, Fribourg, Neuchâtel, Jura, and Valais, which have been able to lower their contamination rate due to a raft of measures that had been taken in November.

In granting this exemption, authorities responded to a joint call from the six cantons to allow them to continue under current conditions.

READ MORE: Why are Switzerland's French-speaking cantons rebelling against planned new Covid-19 restrictions?

However, the Federal Council specified that if the R rate in the exempted cantons should rise above 1, they will have to follow the same restrictive rules as other cantons.

The measures, which will be in effect until January 22nd, are being implement due to the worsening of the epidemiological situation in Switzerland.

 “We're witnessing an exponential increase,” President Simonetta Sommaruga said in a press conference.

“Our hospitals and our health workers are being stretched to the limit. We couldn't wait any longer.”

Health Minister Alain Berset added that the restrictions are put in place “to avoid total shutdown”.


 

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COVID-19

‘Over a million people’ in Switzerland could be infected with Covid this summer

Though Covid has not been a nationwide problem in Switzerland during recent several months, the virus is circulating again and rates of contamination are expected to soar in the coming weeks.

'Over a million people' in Switzerland could be infected with Covid this summer

While the new wave has not been expected to hit before fall or winter,  Swiss health officials now say 15 percent of Swiss population — more than 1 million people — could catch the virus before then.

This is a large number, considering that a total of 3.7 million people in Switzerland got infected since the beginning of the pandemic on February 24th, 2020.

“More than 80,000 new contaminations per week” are expected in the next two months, according to Tanja Stadler, the former head of the Covid-19 Task Force — much more than during the past two summers, when the rate of infections slowed down.

At the moment, the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) reports 24,704 new cases in the past seven days — double of what it was in April.

“The numbers are expected to continue to rise. Note that most of infected people will not be tested, so the number of confirmed cases will be smaller on paper than in reality”, Stadler added.

Although according to FOPH, nearly all cases in Switzerland (99 percent) are caused by Omicron and its sub-variants, which are less severe that the original Covid viruses, “more vulnerable people are likely to end up in hospital, and long Covid cases are also likely to rise”, she said.

Stadler also noted that Omicron virus can’t be compared with the flu, “because we observe long-term consequences much more often during an infection with Omicron than during the flu. Also, Covid can trigger very large waves, even in summer, while large flu outbreaks are rare at this time of year”.

There is, however, some positive news.

“The most recent data shows that 97 percent of the adult population in Switzerland has antibodies against Covid thanks to vaccinations and previous infections”, Stadler said.

Also, “in the long term, things will stabilise. But in the years to come, there will probably be waves in the summer too”.

READ MORE: UPDATE: When will Switzerland roll out second Covid boosters?

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